Buffalo Bills players kneel during the national anthem before an NFL game against the Denver Broncos on Sept. 24, 2017 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
A reader responds to Donald Trump’s remarks disparaging NFL players for peacefully protesting against the treatment of black Americans.
By Andrew Hughes / 09.25.2017
Freedom is not free. Few people know that more personally than the men and women who serve in our armed forces. And when they see someone such as Colin Kaepernick take a knee during the national anthem they, understandably, feel some anger and frustration because they feel like their sacrifice and the sacrifice of their friends and fellow soldiers is being dishonored. Never has a war been fought in which so few have been asked to give up so much while so many have remained so oblivious.
For nearly two decades now our soldiers have fought in wars overseas. The average person in the US cares more about the features of the new upcoming iPhone than they do about the pain of our servicemen and women. Our “leaders” borrow trillions of dollars from China rather than raise taxes to pay for the war. They tell us to keep shopping to support the war effort. No sacrifices have been asked of us at home — far from it. We are for the large part fat and ignorant of the sacrifices made to fight these wars. We know almost nothing about the daily lives of the men and women serving overseas. We do FAR too little to take care of them when they return home. The statistics on PTSD and suicide among veterans are tragically high.
As such, I can understand why someone might see Kaepernick’s protest and feel frustration. But who, really, understands the price of freedom? I would suggest that the sons and daughters of former slaves are perhaps the only people in America that understand the price of freedom as well as those who have served in the military.
Hundreds of years ago, we brought thousands and thousands of Africans over as slaves. We spend hundreds of years raping them, murdering them, enslaving them and then when we “gave them” their freedom, we on the whole continued to oppress them. We marshaled our churches and our academic institutions to legitimize this horrible treatment, this inhumane torture. We systematically blocked efforts at upward mobility.
We continued lynchings and racism. Only in the last few decades have we really begun to confront this legacy and begun attempts to fix it. But now, suddenly, people in our society can’t understand why a black man might have some reservations about standing during the national anthem? Seriously? We can’t imagine any reason why a young African-American might feel some frustration and resentment toward this country?
I would suggest that Kaepernick understands the price of freedom all too well. That is why he kneels. What is the price of freedom if not being willing to stand up for your principles? To protest injustice when you see it? Wouldn’t it have been far easier for him to have played along and quietly earned his millions of dollars? Can we really blame him for being skeptical that our armed forces are overseas fighting for his freedom when the same institutions that command those armed forces were used to enslave his ancestors for hundreds of years?
Our soldiers have been asked to give much, and yes, we as a country are mostly oblivious, and that is sad. This is not Kaepernick’s fault. Kaepernick is engaging in an understandable protest. This is a failure of leadership that would rather ask us to go shopping and burrow deeper into debt instead of raising taxes and asking us to share in that sacrifice. This is a failure of leadership typified by a president that stoops to calling a young man a “son of a bitch” while using anger and frustration to feed his thirst for power.
So yes. We are oblivious. And you have a right to be frustrated and angry. But you’ve got the wrong man.